Preview:
Widnes v Les Catalans (C. Cup R5)

Widnes must avoid losing to French opposition for a second successive year if they are to reach the last eight of the Powergen Challenge Cup.

The Vikings, beaten by Toulouse on a scorching afternoon in the south of France in last year?s quarter-finals, will have home advantage in Sunday?s televised fifth-round tie against Catalans Dragons.

A Super League team this time last year, the roles are now reversed following the Vikings? relegation and, after a disappointing start to their National League campaign, they will be underdogs against the Dragons.

?A lot of people thought it was a turning point in the season when they got beat in France last year,? said Widnes coach Steve McCormack, who joined the club from Whitehaven in the winter.

?We?d like to think that a win on Sunday would be a turning point for this season.

?The Challenge Cup is a great competition and this club has enjoyed a wonderful Cup tradition. It?s always an exciting time and it?s live on television as well. It?s a big occasion for us.?

The Dragons brushed aside the challenge of amateurs Thornhill in the last round but, in their old guise of Union Treiziste Catalane, they never got past the fifth round.

They are expected to tread new ground on Sunday but coach Mick Potter is not under-estimating his National League opponents.

?I watched one of their games recently and they came up with some good plays,? he said.

?They?ve got some big strong people playing for them and some reasonably quick and evasive outside backs.

?They got about 40 points scored against them but they also scored 28 themselves.

?I like to think we can beat them but I?m sure they?re thinking they?ve a chance against us as well.

?Our form hasn?t been senational. We got over Cas in a pretty scrappy game but we need to improve on what we did last week.

?I?m sure we are capable of beating them but you just never know. That?s the beauty of the Challenge Cup and it?s on their home ground.?

Widnes hope to be led by veteran prop Terry O?Connor, who has been having twice-daily treatment on a calf strain in a bid to make the tie.

A cup final winner with Wigan at Murrayfield in 2002, O?Connor is desperately hoping to end his fabulous career with another Cup run.

?You always want to play in the big games and this will be my last Challenge Cup,? he said.

?It?s on TV as well and a lot of lads at Widnes have never played on television. I?m hoping it will bring the best out of them.

?But the French are always tough physical sides and they don?t mind throwing the ball about.?

Powergen Challenge Cup Round Five Widnes Vikings v Les Catalans Dragons Sunday 21st May 2006, Halton Stadium, 2.15pm kick-off

Widnes squad (from): Paul Alcock, David Allen, Bob Beswick, Mick Cassidy, James Coyle, Paul Crook, Gavin Dodd, Jamie Durbin, Danny Heaton, Tim Holmes, Gary Hulse, Bruce Johnson, Barrie McDermott, Ryan Millington, Mick Nanyn, Stephen Nash, Paul O'Connor, Terry O'Connor, Lucas Onyango, Mark Smith, Aaron Summers, Ryan Tandy, Phil Wood, Darren Woods.

Les Catalans squad (from): Renaud Guigue, Justin Murphy, John Wilson, Mark Hughes, Bruno Verges, Laurent Frayssinous, Stacey Jones, Christopher Beattie, David Berthezene, Jerome Guisset, Pascal Jampy, Ian Hindmarsh, Gregory Mounis, Thomas Bosc, Aurelien Cologni, Sean Rudder, Frederic Zitter, Teddy Sadaoui, Alex Chan, Adel Fellous, Julien Touxagas, Jamal Fakir, Sebastien Martins, Remi Casty, Julien Rinaldi, Lionel Teixido, Michael Dobson.

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